The Tabernacle Scroll
“Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, ‘ Have everyone leave my presence!’ So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh’s household heard about it”. (Genesis 45: 1,2, NIV, italics mine).
Behind every act of forgiveness lies a wound of betrayal, and the pain of being betrayed does not easily fade away. Sadly, ‘forgiveness’ is too often presented as an ideal, something that is to be dispersed as an instant ‘pain reliever’ from an aerosol can. So often I have heard preachers insist that where a person is still feeling hurt, that person has not truly forgiven. The implication of such a statement is that if one is not walking around with a feeling of euphoria, then that person has not truly forgiven. Actually, forgiveness is both an act and a process. The act of forgiveness begins with the decision to forgive and with the profession of forgiveness. The process of forgiveness is painfully difficult, because long after you have forgiven, the wound lives on in your memory.
God forbid that we should mistakenly hold people in bondage to what we would like to call ‘their unforgiveness’ by confusing these two elements! It’s one thing to help someone to come to the point of actually saying “I forgive so and so for the terrible things done to me”. It’s quite another thing to stand alongside the person through the grief and pain and suffering that accompanies the decision to forgive! The latter takes time.
I believe that one of the chief reasons for this confusion is that we have been led to believe that for the ‘true Christian’ (we like to coin these terms, Pharisees that we are, don’t we!) forgiveness should come ‘naturally’. The truth is that forgiveness is not a natural act. It is most unnatural. That is why we struggle with it! So let’s forget about our religious platitudes and our platonic views about forgiveness and get down to reality. You see, we initiate the act, but God helps us in the process.
So how then can we help? A good place to start is by accepting the fact of the process of forgiveness in a person’s life. Joseph’s dealings with his brothers (Gen. 42-45) can provide us with insight into this process. Undoubtedly, Joseph wanted to forgive his brothers, but it took him some time to get to that point. The wounds were too deep. His actions reveal his struggle with the desire to get even. But in the end, God’s love and grace broke through. When it did, he wept bitterly as he confessed his pain and hurt to them.
As recipients of God’s forgiveness, our job is to accept people, not judge them. In time, God’s love and grace does the rest!
www.kerysso.org-Preach The Word with Pastor Joseph Rodrigues